Good evening. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are only about fifty five and forty five minutes flying time respectively from San Juan. Whatever happens over there, in the island that Columbus named La Espagnola, is going to affect both ourselves and our Puerto Rican neighbours. And all sorts of things may happen over there in the not too distant future.
His Excellency President Francois Duvalier of Haiti was reported recently to have suffered a severe heart attack. There was considerable speculation in the foreign press, but none, I imagine, in the local press, as to who his successor might be. However, during Mr. Rockefeller's visit to Haiti, it appeared that the President, better known as Papa Doc to friend and foe alike, was not only alive, but still kicking. But the day will come when someone will have to replace Papa Doc, for whatever reason, and this is when all Haiti's neighbours will wait anxiously to see, not so much which way the wind blows, but whether it is going to blow a hurricane.
Columbus' island of La Espagnola eventually settled down in 1697 to being divided into two parts, one Spanish and one French. The Spanish portion, called Hispaniola, broke away from Spain in 1821, and after a period of subjugation by its negro neighbour to the West, it drove out the Haitians, and proclaimed itself the Independent Dominican Republic in 1844. From 1916 until 1924 the country was occupied by American Marines. From 1930 until May the 30th, 1961, - when he was assassinated - the country was ruled with an iron hand by Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo. An iron hand, I might add, without the velvet glove. After Trujillo's death the political pattern in the Dominican Republic showed signs of ever increasing chaos. So on April the 30th, 1965, the United States Marines appeared in the Republic for the second time, together with army units. They remained in the country just long enough to restore a semblance of order to the proceedings, and to see Mr. Balaguer installed as President of the restless little republic.
The American action raised howls of protest from various liberal or left wing Latin American politicians, but the fact remains that it allowed the Dominican Republic to return to a resonably stable form of democracy, and to a commercial and international normality that was urgently required. And the point is, that, unlike Czechoslovakia, the troops are no longer there. But the decision, taken by President Johnson in 1965, was an agonizing one. The decision was this. Whether to court Latin American centre and left opinion by taking no action, thereby risking a Castroist take over, or whether to intervene and ensure that the Dominican Republic remained a Western democracy. And by intervention, accept all the brickbats, rotten eggs, tomatoes, etc. that were inevitably going to be hurled at Uncle Sam for his pains.
Now, in Haiti you have a picture today not too far removed from that which obtained in the Dominican Republic just before the assassination of Trujillo. Haiti is more than three times the size of Puerto Rico and has a population of about four million or nearly twice that of the Commonwealth. The grinding poverty and misery of the this beautiful corner of the Caribbean will take years, if not decades to set right. Haiti, which the French called Saint Domingue, revolted in 1791 under Toussaint L'Ouverture. The fight against Metropolitan France was continued by Dessaline, who declared the former French Colony an independent state in 1804 and soon after proclaimed himself Emperor. Haiti continued to have a turbulent internal history through the nineteenth century. In 1915 it was occupied by United States Marines and administered by America until 1934. After various political upheavals Doctor Duvalier was installed as the new President in June, 1957. He began a new term in 1961, and by that time had built up his own personal power to such an extent that he was able to have himself re-elected, without any trouble at all, as life President in 1964.
Doctor Duvalier is, of course, a dictator. But unlike Trujillo, who brought some material prosperity to the Dominican Republic, Duvalier's administration has brought the reverse to Haiti. In 1963 the United States, outraged by the corruption of a regime that was both cynical and repressive, withdrew its aid to Haiti, except for a token one and a half million dollars for malaria control.
When Governor Rockefeller visited Haiti at the beginning of this month an apparently penitent dictator, arranged a tremendous welcome for President Nixon's emissary. Doctor Duvalier is short of friends and cash. He is also short of time. The day will come when a replacement for the President will be required. If the past political history of Haiti is anything to go by, the United States may, once again, have to face much the same sort of decision that confronted it in the Dominican Republic in 1965.
This has been Henry Howard with international commentary. Good night.